Case Studies


May 7

We Analyzed 150 UAE Ecommerce Sites For User Behavior & Found This

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Awad Makkawi

We reviewed over 150 UAE E-commerce businesses to learn about visitor experience and behaviour.

First, we gathered data points around time on site, number of pages visited, bounce rates and more for each of the websites.

Next, we compared the data sets to get an idea of the kind of metrics that we are seeing across E-commerce in UAE. 

With the help of our Data and AI partner HONE we uncovered some seriously interesting insights.

Here's A Summary Of Our Key Findings

  1. 1
    24% of visitors spend LESS than 1 minute on ecommerce sites in UAE. This suggests that either the visitor experience is underwhelming or the site is not addressing the customer needs.
  2. 2
    22% of visitors visit just 1 page on a site. Even if a given webpage is of interest to the visitor there is nothing to encourage them further into the site.
  3. 3
    For visitors to reach 4+ pages they need to spend an average of 10 - 15 minutes on site. Therefore, focusing on increasing dwell time and conversion rate may increase funnel activation.
  4. 4
    71% of ecommerce websites in UAE have a bounce rate markedly higher than acceptable. This suggests that the vast majority of ecommerce websites are not providing visitors with what they are looking for.
  5. 5
    All segments for Time on Site showed more mobile users except for the 20+ minutes segment which was slightly larger for desktop users. Clearly confirming the importance for a mobile first approach.
  6. 6
    Mobile usage outweighed desktop in all segments for number of pages visited. In fact, it outweighed desktop usage by 175% in the 2 - 5 page segment.
  7. 7
    Monthly traffic segments were dominated by mobile users by an average of 225% higher than desktop traffic.
  8. 8
    Higher bounce rates on mobile could be due to deeper underlying issues.

Take a look at the detailed data from our analysis below.

Along with suggestions for what UAE ecommerce sites can do to address user behavior.

Visitor Time On Site Is Too Short For Conversions To Take Place

Time on site or average visit duration refers to the total time spent by a visitor on a website (not a web page).

In your Google Analytics account this is also known as Session duration.

It's calculated by taking the total time duration of all sessions divided by the number of sessions. 

Google Analytics session duration example

For ecommerce websites this is an important metric because the ultimate goal for the business is to sell its products.

That means visitors need to be on-site for long enough for either:

  • A sale to take place or
  • To convert the visitor into a lead for off-site nurture campaigns like email marketing

The data collected shows that for 24% of ecommerce sites, visitors will leave in under 60 seconds.

Amazon Prime users aside, this is certainly not enough time to turn visitors into paying customers. 

UAE Ecommerce Time on Site

While it's impossible to draw a firm conclusion from this study regarding the reason why visitors leave so quickly, we can anticipate a number of reasons why this is happening such as:

  • Attracting the wrong type of visitor
  • Visitors landing on a page that is not relevant to their search intent
  • Site takes too long to fully load (especially on mobile)
  • Poor user experience (design, page navigation, messaging, content)
  • No Call To Action directing visitors on their next step

Here are 6 suggestions to improve Time on Site:

  • Understand your customer journey and desired outcomes in depth. Then create specific content for each stage of that journey.
  • Ensure that your headlines and descriptions in search results promise exactly what the visitor will receive when they click to your ecommerce site
  • Break up large chunks of text and keep the messaging around how the visitor can experience quick wins
  • Add Calls To Action to direct visitors on what they must do next
  • Use video to increase visitor engagement and dwell time
  • Optimize website speed including image compression, web caching, Javacript and CSS minification.

22% of Visitors will Visit Only 1 Page of the Ecommerce Site

Average page visits for uae ecommerce sites

Think about that for a moment.

Unless visitors somehow land on the checkout page of the product they are interested in, this means that:

For every 100 site visitors 22 are GUARANTEED not to buy.

This is a massive loss especially considering the investment ecommerce brands push into paid campaigns, social campaigns, SEO and content.

In fact, a study by Ivesp showed that average ecommerce conversion rates globally was 2.86% in Q2 2018.

So losing 20%+ of visitors right out the gate won't help those conversion rates at all.

Here's how Google defines Ecommerce conversion rate:

Google ecommerce conversion rate definition

And there are several factors that come into play for conversion rates including, among others, things like:

  • Industry sector and market
  • Type of products
  • Traffic channels

But here's the thing.

Know how we said average ecommerce converison hovers around 2.8%?

Actually, ecommerce sites should aim higher.

Much higher.

A study by Wordstream found that where ecommerce brands really want to be is in the 11%+ conversion rate bracket.

Ecommerce Conversion rates

With that said, Here Are 6 ways to improve ecommerce conversion numbers:

  1. Improve market segmentation and customer profiling: This can be done through surveying or interviewing a group of customers that purchased products. These efforts will reveal deeper commonalities in interests, desired outcomes and more that will reinforce targeting and messaging for ecommerce marketing campaigns.
  2. Focus on quality traffic: This means digging into your analytics to determine which traffic channels produce the most conversions. In general, studies like this one from Episerver suggest that channels rank in the following order: Paid - Search - Referral - Email - Direct - Social - Display. But again, check your analytics and find the channels that result in the most conversions not the one bringing in the most traffic.
  3. Upgrade the mobile shopping experience: Companies with optimized mobile sites triple their chances of hitting conversion rates above 5%.
  4. Promote the products that generate the highest conversions with the highest margins.
  5. Use heat mapping tools: such as Hotjar to determine how visitors are interacting with the site and uncover reasons why they visit only 1 page.
  6. Implement bolder A/B Tests: It's not about testing different color buttons. Rather test things like long form messaging vs short form, different offers or a the same message with different audiences.

Visitors Need To Spend 5 - 10 minutes on Average to Visit 4+ pages

It's unlikely that site visitors jump straight to the checkout page.

Especially first time visitors.

But if they do land on the site, assuming that the right audience was targeted, it suggests they arrived looking for a specific outcome.

And it is the job of the ecommerce business to guide customers to achieve that outcome and eventually to a transaction.

This is where both the marketing and sales funnels come in to play.

AIDA Marketing Funnel

A basic marketing funnel will consist of at least 4 pages/stages to educate, answer any objections and help customers reach their desired outcome:

  • Awareness
  • Interest and consideration
  • Desire and intent
  • Acquisition

To guide customers through this funnel, businesses will make use of different content:


  • Formats
  • Topics and
  • Engagement strategies 

Our data showed that visitors that view 4 or more pages spend on average 5 - 10 minutes on site.

Of course this does not guarantee a sale every 10 minutes. If only that were the case! 

But having relevant content for each of the stages does mean that the interaction can continue well after the prospect leaves the site in order to again guide her to the acquisition stage.

Page visits vs Time on Site for ecommerce sites

The longer or more elaborate the on-site funnel, the more time on site is required.

As you can see:

To visit 5+ pages the time needed jumps up to an average of 10 - 15 minutes on site.

Time on site vs number of pages visited for ecommerce

Almost 75% of UAE Ecommerce Sites Have Bounce Rates Higher Than Industry Average

Bounce rates are a grey area.

Often people think a bounce is simply when a visitor lands on a page and leaves.

Which could be the result of any of the following scenarios:

  • Clicking back to the search results
  • Closing the browser
  • Typing a new url in the address bar
  • Timing out the session

I came - I saw - I left.

That's partly true.

But here's how Google defines a bounce.

Google Bounce rate definition


To be more accurate, a bounce is when a visitor lands on a page and does not trigger another Google Analytics event within the next 30 minutes.

Which means that even if visitors don't progress to another page, you could have a low bounce rate on a page if analytics are set up to recognize events like say a click to: 

  • Watch a video or  
  • Lead magnet button triggering an email opt-in pop up

On the other hand, bounce rates from Google Analytics don't tell the complete story.

It doesn't take into consideration everyday instances.

For example: 

Users that take a coffee break from the page and return 30 minutes later, or users that open pages in several tabs or simply read slowly.

The bottom line is:

Bounce data depends on the context and overall outcome of the webpage.

For Ecommerce sites, where the outcome is centered around users visiting more than one page, a high bounce rate signifies a potential problem.

And our data revealed that a massive 71% of uae ecommerce sites have a bounce rate greater than 50%

With 42% of ecommerce businesses having a bounce rate over 70%.

UAE ecommerce bounce rate

What Can Be Done About The High Ecommerce Bounce Rates?

Such high bounce rates present a huge problem for ecommerce sites.

Or huge opportunity depending on how you look at things.

Precisely because it is well above the acceptable industry average.

In fact: 

A study by CustomMediaLabs and adopted by ConversionXL revealed that average Ecommerce bounce rates are in the 20 - 45% region.

Average bounce rate for ecommerce

So what can ecommerce businesses do about it?

For starters:

Track events in Google Analytics rather than just Page views.

This means creating events within your Analytics account to give a more realistic impression of user interaction on the site. 

Yes it requires more effort.

But for ecommerce brands that want a deeper look at user interaction this is a must.


Optimize page speed.

In general, a 3 second load time is the maximum accepted for any ecommerce landing page.


Use a heatmap tool.

This is especially important in answering questions like whether visitors are viewing full product pages or should pages be re-designed or even revising product spec descriptions.

Fourth and probably most important:

Segmenting website traffic.

This means sending traffic from different sources to different landing pages for better evaluation of bounce rates.  

Traffic can be segmented according to:

  1. 1
    Type of visitor: Returning visitors will have different needs than first time visitors and it's quite common for them to have lower bounce rates.
  2. 2
    Traffic channel: Bounce rates for traffic from paid, search, social or display will vary with the later showing the highest percentage. Marketing efforts can be checked for channels with high bounce rates.
  3. 3
    Device: Mobile traffic will have higher bounce rates for other reasons which we will discuss shortly. But device segmentation will reveal if a high desktop bounce rate exists for brands to consider optimizing.
Average bounce rates by traffic channel

Next up in our study,

We segmented our data based on device used.

Let's dive into what that looks like for traffic, page visits and bounce rates when we compare mobile vs desktop visitors.

137% More Mobile Users Spend 5 - 10 Mins On Site Than Desktop Users

We compared the percentage of mobile users vs desktop users in each of the following segments for time on site:

  • Under 1 minute
  • 1 - 5 minutes
  • 5 - 10 minutes
  • 10 - 15 minutes
  • 15 - 20 minutes
  • 20+ minutes

Our results showed that the only exception where more desktop users were on a website is the 20+ minute segment.

Take a look at these results:

Time Segment

Percentage Difference


Less 1 min



1 - 5 mins



5 - 10 mins



10 - 15 mins



15 - 20 mins



20+ mins



UAE Ecommerce Time on Site

What does this mean?

It means that 83% of the time, no matter what your funnel activation strategy is, it should involve a mobile first approach.

This is important because majority of sites are still not adequately optimized for mobile.


This finding is directly in line with Google's recent announcement that they are switching to mobile-first indexing by September 2020.

Google Mobile First Indexing

So later this year Google will begin to crawl, index and rank the mobile version of sites before inspecting desktop versions.

The rationale is due to the increase in mobile search.

They'll use the smartphone Googlebot crawler first in order to match how users are interacting with the web today.

The 4 Major Best Practices To Implement For Mobile Indexing

The following are the optimizations to verify for the mobile first roll-out.

And they are especially important following new website launches or redesign.

  1. Ensure that the Googlebot crawler can access mobile pages i.e. check any robots.txt and noindex tags for mobile pages
  2. Structured data should be the same for mobile and desktop versions of the site. For ecommerce stores prioritize checking structured data for [breadcrumbs], [product] and tags
  3. Content and headings should be the same on mobile and desktop versions. Often mobile pages have reduced content compared to desktop. Following the roll-out such difference will lead to traffic loss as Google can't get enough information from the page as before
  4.  Check visual and video content for both site versions. This means using supported formats, the same alt descriptions, quality, no urls changes with each load, content positioning and so on.

For additional improvements, check out Google's recommendations here.

It is technical but there's no 2 ways about it.

Get your SEO to confirm that the site is ready for the shift to mobile first indexing and avoid any unwanted ranking cliff-drops.

175% More Mobile Users Visit 2 - 5 Pages Per Session As Compared To Desktop

Next we wanted to see if there was a difference between mobile and desktop users in the total number of page visits on ecommerce sites.

So we took the total number page visits across the following segments and compared how many of the visitors were on mobile or desktop:

  • 1 page
  • 2 - 5 pages
  • 5 - 10 pages
  • 10 - 15 pages
  • 20+ pages

The number of mobile users outweighed desktop users in every single segment for page visits.

Have a look:

No. Of Pages Visited

Percentage Difference





2 - 5



5 - 10



10 - 15



20+ mins



UAE Ecommerce page visits desktop vs mobile

These results reinforce that majority of the engagement is taking place on mobile devices making mobile optimization an absolute must.

Furthermore, the biggest difference was in the 2 - 5 page segment where the number of mobile visitors was 175% greater than desktop.

This indicates that 2 - 5 pages may be the optimal funnel activation number to consider.

After 5 pages the difference between mobile and desktop begins to drop which may explained as mobile users knowing the specific outcome they want and searching for quick solutions.

Another reason of course could be traffic.

Mobile Monthly Traffic To Ecommerce Sites Dwarfs Desktop

There's no shortage of data showing that mobile traffic is overtaking desktop.

Like this report from Bain & Company with Google where they found that in the UAE and KSA, the mobile share of shopping related queries has reached 70%. And in KSA, UAE and Egypt 55% of shoppers prefer to use smartphones to shop online.

GCC Mobile penetration

The surprising discovery is by how much the mobile traffic is ahead of desktop.

Our analysis showed that monthly traffic to ecommerce sites is almost 225% larger by mobile visitors than desktop viewers.

UAE Ecommerce site monthly traffic mobile vs desktop

Which brings us to the bounce distribution of that traffic.

Mobile Bounce Rates Are Higher Than Desktop But There's More To It

According to our results, whether the bounce rate was high at 50%+ or low at less than 30% the number of bounces attributed to a mobile device were consistently greater than desktop.

Again, this aligns with existing studies that show mobile bounce rates are generally higher than desktop.

UAE ecommerce sites bounce rate mobile vs desktop

Quick explanations include:

  1. Mobile traffic to ecommerce sites is larger than desktop so we can expect more bounces attributed to mobile
  2. Poor connectivity
  3. The "on-the-go" nature of mobile use and need for quick results
  4. Easy interruption
  5. Reduced likelihood to spend longer time on small screens

That being said, a report by Comscore on the Hierarchy of mobile needs, shed some light on deeper underlying issues.

Here are the pain points for ecommerce sites to address to reassure their visitors:

  1. Security concerns
  2. Cannot see the product clearly
  3. Difficult navigation
  4. Inconvenience when entering details
  5. Inability to browse and compare multiple screens
  6. Lack of trust around safety of credit card information storage and digital footprint
Ecommerce sites mobile bounce rate reasons


We learnt a lot about uae ecommerce sites from this study and hope you did too.

There are players that nailed their ecommerce sites and there's still plenty of room for improvement for others.

I'd like to again thank the team at Hone for providing the data that brought this research to life.

And now I'd love to hear from you:

What was your biggest takeaway from the study?

Or maybe you have a question.

Eitherway, leave a comment below.

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